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Audience Studies, Inc. (ASI) - Begun in 1966, ASI, (formerly Audience Studies, Inc.) began as program research division of Columbia Pictures that was designed to determine whether a prospective television program wwould be popular and whether the storylines/cast members will have audience appeal. Their original Hollywood "Preview House" was built to hold 400 participants.

The evaluation process is simple. Each visitor is allow free access to  new program ideas (motion pictures, TV pilots, ads, etc). In exchange, they are are given access to a dial to manipulate as they watch a program, then they are asked to fill out forms providing basic information on their age, sex, education and income. ASI tests about 150 pilots a year at a cost of $20,000 to it clients ($40,000 for cable shows).

While viewing the potpourri of programming, participants operate a dial (plus or minus) which indicates their pleasure or displeasure ) with what they were watching. The resulting gathered information helps production studios determine whether a specific new series pilot will sink or swim on television.

According to ASI's Chief Executive Officer David Castler, the goal of pilot testing is not just to see if viewers laugh at a sitcom or engage in a drama. The goal is to fix what's wrong, if possible, and improve what's good. If a particular character makes the dials spin to minus, that character can be rewritten or recast. If a joke falls flat, it can be reworked. It's that "tweakability" factor clients are after.

Although prescreening  attempts to gauge the popularity of a pilot, it doesn't always work. For example, the sitcom ALL IN THE FAMILY, received terrible negatives but became a long-running, ground-breaking series. The same misdiagnosis happened with the now classic sitcom SEINFELD.

ASI is based in the Los Angeles area with screen rooms located in the  Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Roy Morgan Research acquired ASI in 1985. 

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